Monthly Archives: February 2012

1. The Skyline
Atlanta’s sparkling skyline stretches over two miles from Midtown to Downtown, a line of striking, gem-cut towers punctuating the Southern sky. Whether it’s heading towards the city along one of Atlanta’s interminable freeways, catching surprising vistas of the array peeking above the treeline, or ambling amongst the towers on a Friday night bar crawl, the commanding presence of the city’s skyscrapers asserts‬—physically and visually, at least—that as a metropolis, Atlanta ain’t no small potatoes.

2. The World’s Largest Hub
Delta Air Lines and AirTran (quickly becoming Southwest) call Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport home, but it’s Delta that is known for its mega-hub at ATL—the world’s largest, with 1,000 daily flights to 215 destinations around the world. As a Southerner, I’ve always been more than a little bit proud of not having to traipse all the way up to New York to access the rest of the globe, and as an airline geek, that’s just a cool fact. I love that Delta’s inspiring presence—“Fly Delta Jets” one vintage billboard reads—is felt throughout the city.

3. The Legacy
There was Selma, there was Montgomery, but Atlanta formed the epicenter of the American Civil Rights Movement that earned equal treatment under the law—on paper, anyway—for the black citizens of this country. The combination of a large and upwardly-mobile black professional class, influential black colleges and universities, and fearless campaigners like MLK set the city aloft as a beacon of black cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievement. It didn’t last (see: integration not exactly being the great societal panacea it was cracked up to be), but the historical legacy—and way more than a few black folks in Benzes—remains.

4. The Food
Say what you will about the healthiness of Southern cooking, soul food, barbecue, and what not, I have but two words to offer you: Waffle House.

5. The Accent
Many of us grew up with the clichéd dichotomy of Scarlett and Mammy informing us of what someone from Atlanta (or a plantation in the immeejit viciniteh might sound like), but anyone who takes the time to actually listen to the fashionable ladies shopping at Phipps Plaza or the round-the-way girls on the MARTA can perceive that native speech patterns include a little bit of both. Living abroad, urban Southern speech (NOT hick tawk, ya heah meh?) is one of the things I miss most about the States and it’s one of the first reminders that I’m back home. It’s just nice, like unlimited refills of sweet tea.

What are the things you like about Atlanta?

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The recent, tragic death of cultural steward and soul master Don Cornelius got me thinking heavily about inspiration, so when I ran across this photograph of the unadulterated musical genius Prince as a young man, I knew I had to pay homage to one of the very first popular proponents of out-of-the-box thinking that I ever encountered.

Not only was his music daring, provocative, and unlike anything else played on urban contemporary radio in the ’80s and ’90s, Prince pushed the boundaries of identity and cultural expectation in a way that I could relate to even before realizing it. I was ten years old when Under the Cherry Moon first came on cable TV. Ridiculous script and laughable acting aside (though the “Wrecka Stow” scene is hilarious), it’s the brilliant cinematography, exotic setting (Nice, n’est-ce pas?), and lush, phenomenal score that still makes me want to―just for a moment―run off and be a gigolo on the Riviera.

Let Prince take you on a trip to the Moon:

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OUR lady. Art by Ilona.

In Brazil, February 2nd is dedicated in the Catholic tradition to Our Lady of Seafaring, a manifestation of the Virgin Mary who watches over sailors and fishermen. But the larger celebration isn’t of the Catholic saint, but of the Afro-Latin deity Iemanjá, goddess of the two greatest tidal forces on the planet—motherhood and the sea.

Originally part of the Yoruba pantheon of gods—called orishas—Iemanjá (in Portuguese), or Yemayá (in Spanish), was brought over to the Americas by her African devotees during the slave trade and maintains a prominent place among the syncretic religions like Candomblé and Umbanda in Brazil, Santería in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, and Vodou in Haiti. These syncretic religions fuse cultural elements and faith systems from African, indigenous American, and European traditions, and while still ignorantly characterized as witchcraft by some sections of the general population, the fact that homages to the goddess are sometimes held as government-sanctioned events shows just how important non-Christian spiritual traditions remain in Latin American societies. And anyone in the States familiar with that fly, old school salsa from the ’70s ought to have heard Yemayá’s name come up on more than one occasion.

Singing, drumming, dancing, and offerings of food and flowers are made to the goddess year-round (especially in Rio on New Years Eve), but in the Brazilian state of Bahia, where Afro-Brazilian culture is most palpable, February 2nd is Iemanjá’s day.